CHECKLISTS

Timothy and Titus – Inconspicuous Leadership

1 Timothy 5 checklistI am a list maker…even in retirement from my secular work. For me, what doesn’t get listed, doesn’t get done. It is also very rewarding for me to check that item off the list when it is accomplished. The list has a progression of priorities. One task cannot happen until another task is completed. And so life goes with my lists guiding my behavior and productivity.

As I journal each morning in my conversational prayer with God, the Father, His Spirit guides me to make another list that helps me to mature and grow in Him. I am convicted of some of those “fruits of the Spirit” that I have not tended to or cultivated, have ignored or left undone. His Holy Spirit redirects my thoughts and helps me form a list of tasks that will help me improve my behavior. “Keep a close check on yourself”, writes Paul to Timothy. For me, that means to make a spiritual checklist that keeps me in close contact with the will and purpose of our Father, God and helps me to grow closer to Him.

We can do nothing of significance without God. I am convinced that He guides us to all things that are good for our growth and aid our learning about Him and how He works. Paul also gives Timothy sound advice about how to treat those whom God has called to lead with character traits with another list of how to lead. This list still applies to us today. The theme of this episode seems to be; Know God, Know Yourself, Know The Message, Know Your Audience. Our deeds, good and bad, will be evident. Be driven by God’s love in us.

1 Timothy 5, The Message

17-18 Give a bonus to leaders who do a good job, especially the ones who work hard at preaching and teaching. Scripture tells us, “Don’t muzzle a working ox” and “A worker deserves his pay.”

19 Don’t listen to a complaint against a leader that isn’t backed up by two or three responsible witnesses.

20 If anyone falls into sin, call that person on the carpet. Those who are inclined that way will know right off they can’t get by with it.

21-23 God and Jesus and angels all back me up in these instructions. Carry them out without favoritism, without taking sides. Don’t appoint people to church leadership positions too hastily. If a person is involved in some serious sins, you don’t want to become an unwitting accomplice. In any event, keep a close check on yourself. And don’t worry too much about what the critics will say. Go ahead and drink a little wine, for instance; it’s good for your digestion, good medicine for what ails you.

24-25 The sins of some people are blatant and march them right into court. The sins of others don’t show up until much later. The same with good deeds. Some you see right off, but none are hidden forever.

1 Timothy 5 check yourselfLEADERSHIP PRINCIPLE #6: Keep a Close Check on Yourself

Leadership Characteristics –

–Fully rely on God. Trust Him with all you are and all you have. We are His. All we have is His.
–Ask God “if there is anything offensive to you, cleanse me.” as the Psalmist prayed.
–Repent with a heart and mind not wanting to return to the old life.
–Look full into the face of Jesus, our Master, Lord and Savior with laser focus so we know what direction to take next.
–“Keep a close check on yourself.” Avoid, “he did it, I can, too” or “my sin is not as bad as his sin” or “everybody’s doing it” mentality.
–Ask God for wisdom, insight and understanding.
–Allow God’s transformation to continue in our lives.
–Ask God to make your lists of to BE and to DO. HE will prioritize your lists in ways you cannot imagine! Where He guides, He provides help all along the journey.
–Do all in a Spirit of love for God and others.
–Care enough to confront others with God’s love and concern for their spiritual well-being and growth.

Warning   The things on our spiritual check list can never be crossed off because we’ll be working on them our whole lives. By listing we are reminding ourselves of what we need to work on to “keep a close check” on our lives. It is only by The Atonement of Jesus Christ can we accomplish anything of eternal significance.

Dear Heavenly Father,
You have convinced me that we must do spiritual “business” with You each day to improve our being in You. Thank you for helping us on this journey. Thank you for Your Holy Spirit that points out things in our behavior that could cause us to crash…before crashing. Thank you for always being with us, guiding and directing, loving and protecting and challenging us to grow and bear Fruit. Continue to transform me. Transform your church. Transform the world through your church.
In Jesus Name, Amen

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A LITTLE KNOWLEDGE IS DANGEROUS!

Have you ever heard the phrase; a little knowledge can be dangerous? Why is it dangerous? When you hear just enough information that incites a quick response because it troubles your soul, you make hasty decisions. You tend to “shoot from the hip” of your emotions without digging deeper into the research of true facts. Coupled with fear, which leads to anger, because what you have heard might affect you and your power base, you make a sweeping rash decision which will hurt all those in the wake of your reach. More than likely this leads to a mess to clean up.

Herod is the King residing over God’s people at the time Jesus entered the world as Truth. Herod did not follow God’s Law but knew just enough to be dangerous. Read on…

Matthew—The Law Fulfilled
Matthew 2, NLT


Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose and we have come to worship him.”
3 King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. 4 He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”
5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:
6 ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
are not least among the ruling cities of Judah,
for a ruler will come from you
who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. 8 Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”
9 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
12 When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.

The Escape to Egypt
13 After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
14 That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, 15 and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”
16 Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. 17 Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

18 “A cry was heard in Ramah—
weeping and great mourning.
Rachel weeps for her children,
refusing to be comforted,
for they are dead.”
The Return to Nazareth

19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. 20 “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.”
21 So Joseph got up and returned to the land of Israel with Jesus and his mother. 22 But when he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s son Archelaus, he was afraid to go there. Then, after being warned in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee. 23 So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

WHAT DO WE LEARN?
The gospel testimony of Matthew reaches back to what God said would happen through the prophets centuries before Jesus was born. God also knew how Herod would react to the news of Truth. God is sovereign. God had a plan from the beginning of time itself to bring Jesus into the world, protect him for the mission of saving the world. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

God even told the prophets where Jesus would be born and where he would live until the time of fulfilling his ultimate mission to save those who believe in Him. Wow.

Do you believe?
Do you really believe that what you believe about God is really real?

TRUTH: God does what He says. Count on it. Truth wins. Jesus is the Person of Truth. The evil one is a The Liar who loves to provoke us with just enough knowledge to destroy what God is doing in and through us. Beware.

Abba, Father in Heaven,
You know us for you created us. You know us from the inside out. But you also gave us the choice to love you, believe in you, trust you and serve you. I believe. I choose you. I have decided and committed my thinking and behavior to you. Changes in me are inevitable and needed. Help me to think more like you each day so I will make the right decisions concerning my life which affects those around me as well as myself.
In Jesus Name, Amen

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ANCESTRY.COM/MATTHEW—AND JOSEPH NAMED HIM JESUS

Nowhere in the four gospels do we find a single recorded word that Matthew spoke. Yet in his gospel, Matthew gives us the words and actions of Jesus Christ, “the Son of David, the Son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1). Matthew did not write to tell us about himself.  He wrote so that we would know Jesus, the One who was sent from God, to fulfill the law and commandments of God.

Matthew was a Jewish man who left his family to become a tax collector in his community.  To the Jews, this was the most disgusting occupation you could have, robbing from your own people to satisfy the Romans who oppressed them.  People ducked when they saw Matthew coming down the street.  Imagine getting an official letter in the mail from the IRS today.  Because we were audited once, I still cringe seeing any form or letter coming from our tax collecting government organiztion!  Even more so in Matthew’s day.

What did Jesus see in Matthew?  I love the thoughts of Max Lucado, “At the same time, you gotta wonder what Matthew saw in Jesus.  I mean, look at him.  Dirt under his nails.  Calloused hands.  Holes in his sandals.  No headquarters.  No office.  No committee.  No clout with the local church.  The clergy won’t give him the time of day.  His followers look more like dockhands or pool sharks than seminarians.”

“Quite a pair, these two.  You gotta wonder what they saw in each other.  Whatever it was, it must’ve been something.  Matthew heard the call and never went back.  He spent the rest of his life convincing folks that the carpenter was the King.  Jesus gave the call and never took it back.  He spent his life dying for people like Matthew, convincing a lot of us that if he had a place for Matthew, he just might had a place for us.”

Let’s begin reading the testimony of Matthew now that we know him a little better.

Matthew—The Law Fulfilled

Matthew 1, NLT

The Ancestors of Jesus the Messiah

This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac.
Isaac was the father of Jacob.
Jacob was the father of Judah and his brothers.
Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (whose mother was Tamar).
Perez was the father of Hezron.
Hezron was the father of Ram.
Ram was the father of Amminadab.
Amminadab was the father of Nahshon.
Nahshon was the father of Salmon.
Salmon was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab).
Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth).
Obed was the father of Jesse.
Jesse was the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah).
Solomon was the father of Rehoboam.
Rehoboam was the father of Abijah.
Abijah was the father of Asa.
Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat.
Jehoshaphat was the father of Jehoram.
Jehoram was the father of Uzziah.
Uzziah was the father of Jotham.
Jotham was the father of Ahaz.
Ahaz was the father of Hezekiah.
10 Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh.
Manasseh was the father of Amon.
Amon was the father of Josiah.
11 Josiah was the father of Jehoiachin and his brothers (born at the time of the exile to Babylon).
12 After the Babylonian exile:
Jehoiachin was the father of Shealtiel.
Shealtiel was the father of Zerubbabel.
13 Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud.
Abiud was the father of Eliakim.
Eliakim was the father of Azor.
14 Azor was the father of Zadok.
Zadok was the father of Akim.
Akim was the father of Eliud.
15 Eliud was the father of Eleazar.
Eleazar was the father of Matthan.
Matthan was the father of Jacob.
16 Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Messiah.

17 All those listed above include fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the Babylonian exile, and fourteen from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah.

The Birth of Jesus the Messiah

18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
    She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
    which means ‘God is with us.’”

24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.

THINK ABOUT IT…POINTS TO PONDER

*We will see the word “fulfill” many times in Matthew’s testimony of the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Another phrase, “as the prophets said…” will also set the stage for understanding the mission of Jesus from the beginning of God’s creation.

*Because Matthew wrote for a Jewish audience, he began by showing through family records that Jesus as a descendent of both King David and Abraham which drew them in for the purpose of taking them from religious tradition to a relationship with Jesus, The Messiah, The One and Only they had been waiting for all their lives.

*Joseph and Mary were sent in a new direction in their lives that was challenging to say the least.  Led by God’s Spirit in them they were the first to follow without question.  “Let it be as you say…” answers Mary.  “And Joseph named him Jesus” as he had been told.  Joseph took his calling seriously.  Mary served reverently.  Together, they raised Jesus in the Jewish tradition despite the rumors and gossipers. 

*As long as we live and breathe the air on this earth, we will all come to a crossroads of belief and followership when it comes to Jesus.  His will or ours? 

*What do I see in Jesus?  What does Jesus see in me?  Now, it’s personal.

Abba, Father in Heaven,

Thank you for sending Jesus to save us from our sins. Thank you for looking beyond my behavior to look deep into my heart.  I repent of the things that offend you.  I believe in your forgiveness and restoration.  I want what you want for me.  Help us all to hear your voice, “follow Me”, above all others voices, and readily leave the old life for a new life with you forever.  No turning back, no turning back.  I have decided to follow you.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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THE GOOD NEWS!

Matthew – Fulfillment of The Law

Luke – Lostness

Mark – The Simple Facts

John – Love of God

Before we dive into a new study of the Gospels, The Good News, let us first consider what the prophets said generations before the birth of the Good News, Jesus.  God saw the condition of the world.  God knew the hearts of His people.  God spoke through prophets with understandable words of Truth promising a Messiah that would save the world, but most did not listen.  Why?

Eugene Peterson explains the conditions of the hearts of people well, “Most of life is not lived in crisis—which is a good thing.  Not many of us would be able to sustain a life of perpetual pain or loss or ecstasy or challenge.  But crisis has this to say for it:  In time of crisis everything, absolutely everything, is important and significant.  Life itself is on the line.  No word is casual, no action marginal.  And almost always, God and our relationship with God is on the front page.”

“But during the humdrum times, when things are, as we tend to say, ‘normal’, our interest in God is crowded to the margins of our lives and we become preoccupied with ourselves.  ‘Religion’ during such times is trivialized into asking ‘God-questions’—calling God into question or complaining about him, treating the worship of God as a mere hobby or diversion, managing our personal affairs (such as marriage) for our own convenience and disregarding what God has to say about them, going about our usual activities as if God were not involved in such dailiness.”

“The prophet Malachi is made to order for just such conditions. Malachi creates a crisis at a time when we are unaware of crisis.  He wakes us up to the crisis of God during the times when the only thing we are concerned with is us.  He keeps us on our toes, listening for God, waiting in anticipation for God, ready to respond to God, who is always coming to us.”

Immanuel, “God with us”, came, just as God said, after many long years of silence brought on by the disobedience of mankind. In Malachi 1:1, God told His people, “I love you” and they responded, “how have you loved us?”  God-questions.  Mankind is always questioning when humble faith is at the heart of the issue.  Faith, we will learn from Jesus, is the real deciding factor for life abundant and free.

Yes, it had been 400 years since God had spoken to His people through the prophets.  Micah’s word from God specifically spelled out the human condition apart from God.  Through Micah, God told His people what was required of them to live well, to live in His will, to accomplish His purpose.  The Lord God laid out his concerns using Micah as His “attorney” to lay His case before a whining, inattentive, unloving, disobedient people. Let’s listen in to the closing statements of God’s case.

The Lord’s Case against Israel

Listen to what the Lord is saying:

“Stand up and state your case against me.
    Let the mountains and hills be called to witness your complaints.
And now, O mountains,
    listen to the Lord’s complaint!
He has a case against his people.
    He will bring charges against Israel.

“O my people, what have I done to you?
    What have I done to make you tired of me?
    Answer me!
For I brought you out of Egypt
    and redeemed you from slavery.
    I sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to help you.
Don’t you remember, my people,
    how King Balak of Moab tried to have you cursed
    and how Balaam son of Beor blessed you instead?
And remember your journey from Acacia Grove[a] to Gilgal,
    when I, the Lord, did everything I could
    to teach you about my faithfulness.”

What can we bring to the Lord?
    Should we bring him burnt offerings?
Should we bow before God Most High
    with offerings of yearling calves?
Should we offer him thousands of rams
    and ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Should we sacrifice our firstborn children
    to pay for our sins?

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God.”  Micah 6:1-8, New Living Translation

After the prophets spoke, people resumed their normal, much like we are doing after our COVID crisis in the world.  In the middle of the “lockdown”, thousands turned their thoughts to God with questions of why are we going through us—”God-questions”—instead of daily laying their lives before Him as a living offering to begin or continue an intimate relationship with God.  God doesn’t change in what He wants from us.  “Do what is right, love mercy and walk humbly with God” in a holy, growing, intimate relationship with Him.

Many people around the world heard the Good News of Jesus’ saving grace because of God’s love for the first time. God doesn’t waste a single crisis moment in history for Truth telling!  Because of the covid crisis, many have now found, accepted and believe Jesus and are now following Him.  Are you one of them?  I pray you are. 

The Good News is just that—GOOD! Jesus died and rose again to save us from our selfishness and sin.  We love God because He first loved us and sent His Son to save us!  God does what He says He will do. Every. Time.  I suggest a reading of Malachi and Micah to prepare for this study.

“I love you” –God

Tomorrow, it begins with Matthew.  Join us as we dig for more treasures of Truth.

Abba, Father in Heaven,

Hallowed is Your Name.  May Your Kingdom come, Your will be done in us and through us.  Give us this day expectant hope of your return which guides our every thought and action.  Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.  Lead us not into temptations to doubt or turn away but instead deliver us from evil and evil’s schemes to distract us from you and all that is good.  For you have all power.  Nothing is too hard for you.  No one is like you, our Father God.  No one.  To You be all glory, honor and praise forevermore.

In Jesus Name, Amen.  I believe.

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LET EVERY LIVING CREATED PRAISE GOD!

Yes, and Amen!  This is our last psalm of worship and teaching.  We have learned how much God loves us and we have deepened our love and understanding for our Creator!  We have learned that we can praise God no matter what is happening around us in this world.  We have been taught that everything God created responds with praise back to him.  How great is our God!  Praise God with all that is in us, for that is right, good, pleasing to God and lifts us up a little closer to where He is!  The more we praise Him, the more we want to praise Him.  Hallelujah, God is God! 

THINK ABOUT IT…

To those of you who read this blog consistently, How has your study of Psalms helped you to worship and serve the Lord more joyfully and thoughtfully?

Worship and Wisdom, Psalms and Proverbs

Psalm 150, The Message


1-6 
Hallelujah!
Praise God in his holy house of worship,
    praise him under the open skies;
Praise him for his acts of power,
    praise him for his magnificent greatness;
Praise with a blast on the trumpet,
    praise by strumming soft strings;
Praise him with castanets and dance,
    praise him with banjo and flute;
Praise him with cymbals and a big bass drum,
    praise him with fiddles and mandolin.
Let every living, breathing creature praise God!
    Hallelujah!

TRUTH: God loves the praise of His people.  Let us show our love for Him in our praise to Him.  To God be the glory for all that He has done!  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19  So, we praise the One who loved us first and loves us best.

“Praise the Lord! He is good. God’s love never fails.
Praise the God of all gods.  God’s love never fails.
Praise the Lord of lords.  God’s love never fails.”
  Psalm 136:1-3

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

Revelation 5:13

Proverb 12:28 

WISDOM: “In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality.”  Trust God.  Praise God!

Abba, Father in Heaven!

To you be all glory, honor and praise!  Praise for you will always be on my lips because you are in my thoughts.  I want what you want.  Help me to listen carefully and live skillfully with your wisdom guiding me.  All that is right, good and miraculous comes from you!  I love you with all my heart, mind and soul.  May my life give you praise today!

In Jesus Name, Amen

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CELEBRATE OUR SOVEREIGN CREATOR!

Several times in God’ Word the word “sovereign” is used when describing God.  What does that word actually mean to us?  I looked it up because I was curious about the depth of the word’s meaning in relationship to God’s authority.  John Frame explains it well, “The term sovereignty is rarely found in recent translations of Scripture, but it represents an important biblical concept. A sovereign is a ruler, a king, a lord, and Scripture often refers to God as the one who rules over all. His most common proper name, Yahweh (see Ex. 3:14) is regularly translated Lord in the English Bible. And Lord, in turn, is found there over 7,000 times as a name of God and specifically as a name of Jesus Christ. So, to discuss the sovereignty of God is to discuss the lordship of God—that is, to discuss the Godness of God, the qualities that make him to be God. The major components of the biblical concept of divine sovereignty or lordship are God’s control, authority, and presence.”

Simply said, God created all, knows all and is in all.  God’s intentions, will and purpose are fulfilled because He is sovereign.  Nothing can prevent God from accomplishing His purpose. If God wills it, God will accomplish it.  He doesn’t really need us to do His work, but He calls us to His work at times to teach us.  (Read the gospels and see how Jesus invites his disciples into His work!)  As Sovereign Lord, He calls us to be His people first.  His presence is always with his committed, faithful people who love Him with all their hearts, minds and souls. He does in us what we cannot do for ourselves.  He forgives, saves and redeems us for eternity!


John Frame explains, “When God takes us to be his people, he fights our battles, blesses us, loves us, and sometimes (as a loving Father should) gives us special punishments for our sins (Amos 3:2). He summarizes all this by saying that he is with us. He places his name upon us (Num. 6:27) so that he dwells with us and we with him. In the Old Testament, he fulfills his presence with Israel in the tabernacle and the temple. In the New Testament, he dwells with us particularly in Jesus, “God with us,” Immanuel (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:23). He “tabernacles” with us (John 1:14). And after his ascension, he sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in us as his temple (1 Cor. 3:16).”

“God’s sovereign lordship is deeply personal. As Lord, God not only controls everything (efficaciously, universally), but also utters commands, words of life, that graciously govern the ongoing life of his creatures. And as Lord he has made a sovereign commitment to be “with” those who are his. Indeed, God’s sovereignty is a broad concept, including all that God is and all that he does, even embracing his love.” (Frame)

HE is God and we are not.  God is the only one to be celebrated, worshiped and praised, no one or anything else on earth, only God!  We celebrate this Truth in our worship each day as we live Truth.  What is Truth?  Jesus!  Jesus died and rose again so that we can freely come to our Sovereign God and live with Him for eternity!  Why trust anyone else but the One and Only who is present with us, knows us better than we know ourselves, loves us, protects and provides for us and fights our battles with evil?

THIS is the reason to worship God with all that is in us!

Everything that God’s people do in serving and glorifying the Lord must flow out of worship, for without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). The most important activity of the local church is the worship of God, for this is the activity we will continue in heaven for all eternity. This psalm is a primer on worship and gives us the basic instructions we need.

Worship and Wisdom, Psalms and Proverbs

Psalm 149, The Message

1-4 Hallelujah!
Sing to God a brand-new song,
    praise him in the company of all who love him.
Let all Israel celebrate their Sovereign Creator,
    Zion’s children exult in their King.
Let them praise his name in dance;
    strike up the band and make great music!
And why? Because God delights in his people,
    adorns plain folk with salvation garlands!

5-9 Let true lovers break out in praise,
    sing out from wherever they’re sitting,
Shout the high praises of God,
    brandish their swords in the wild sword-dance—
A portent of vengeance on the God-defying nations,
    a signal that punishment’s coming,
Their kings chained and hauled off to jail,
    their leaders behind bars for good,
The judgment on them carried out to the letter
    —and all who love God in the seat of honor!
Hallelujah!

TRUTH:  All who love God will live with Him forever all because of Jesus Christ, His Son.

Proverb 16:1-9, The Message

Mortals make elaborate plans,
    but God has the last word.

Humans are satisfied with whatever looks good;
    God probes for what is good.

Put God in charge of your work,
    then what you’ve planned will take place.

God made everything with a place and purpose;
    even the wicked are included—but for judgment.

God can’t stomach arrogance or pretense;
    believe me, he’ll put those braggarts in their place.

Guilt is banished through love and truth;
    Fear-of-God deflects evil.

When God approves of your life,
    even your enemies will end up shaking your hand.

Far better to be right and poor
    than to be wrong and rich.

We plan the way we want to live,
    but only God makes us able to live it.

WISDOM: We plan but God decides.  God’s will is accomplished because God is Sovereign.  That’s why it is important to ask what God wants, when He wants it done and then do what He says.

Abba, Father in Heaven,

I celebrate your sovereignty this morning because what you have taught me through the reading of Your Word and by the prompting of Your Holy Spirit.  You take me deeper still when I yield to your teaching.  Thank you for guiding, correcting my course, leading, teaching, strengthening with your wisdom, insight and understanding.  I want to know you more and understand your will and purpose.  I worship You above all.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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THE ONLY NAME TO PRAISE!

The word praise is used thirteen times in these fourteen verses. The psalm begins in the highest heavens and ends with the little nation of Israel. If any psalm reveals the glory and grandeur of the worship of the Lord, it is this one, for it is cosmic in its dimensions and yet very personal in its intentions. How anyone could trivialize the privilege and responsibility of worship after pondering this psalm is difficult to understand.  Consider the three declarations of praise presented by the Psalmist;

DIGGING DEEPER…

The Heavens Praise the Lord

We do not praise a god who was manufactured on earth; we praise the one true and living God who reigns from the highest heavens, the God who created all things. 

The Earth Praises the Lord

The sea creatures from the ocean depths head the list, followed by the demonstrations of God’s power in the atmosphere. Remember David’s psalm about the storm (29)? “Fire” in verse 8 is probably lightning, although some opt for volcanic disturbances. Lightning often accompanied hailstorms in the Holy Land. To us, the storms are unpredictable and seem out of control as they do extensive damage, but we are assured that they are accomplishing God’s will.

The psalmist then moved from the sea and atmosphere into the land, where God placed trees for food and trees for building, wild animals and domestic animals, small creatures and birds. But men and women are the highest creatures in God’s creation because they were made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28).

If any of God’s creation has good reason to praise the Lord, it is mankind, because we have the privilege of knowing God more intimately, and we have the promise of one day being like Christ. Angels rejoice when sinners are saved, but they cannot experience the grace of God (Luke 15:7, 10). We wonder how many world leaders take time to thank and praise God. Whether we are male or female, young or old, famous or unknown, we can all know the Lord and praise the Lord. We know His name! What a privilege to be a child of the King!

The People of Israel Praise the Lord

In Scripture, a “horn” is a symbol of power and dignity, a king or a kingdom. To “take away the horn” means to deprive a nation or person of authority and. When the Lord brought His people back from exile in Babylon, He “raised up a horn” for them. This cannot refer to a king, for David’s dynasty had ended with the capture of Zedekiah, and the returned remnant had no king. But they did have a nation, a temple, and a priesthood, and they had preserved the sacred Word that the Lord had given them through their prophets.

But Luke 1:69 gives us the right to apply this image to Jesus Christ, the Son of David, for He is the only person qualified to sit on David’s throne (Luke 1:30-33). “Salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22), and the Jews are a people who are still dear to the Lord (Ex. 19:6; Num. 16:5; Deut. 4:1-8).

If you read this psalm again with Jesus in mind, you can see how much greater He is than anything or anyone mentioned, for He is the Creator of all things (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16-17). He is Captain of the hosts of the Lord (Josh. 5:14), the Sun of Righteousness (Mal. 4:2; Luke 1:78), and the Morning Star (Rev. 22:16). When ministering here on earth, He demonstrated power over storms (Matt. 8:23-27; 14:23-33), trees (Matt. 21:18-22), and wild and domestic animals (Mark 1:13; 11:1-3). He is far above the angels (Heb. 1; Eph. 1:18-23; 3:10-11). He revealed the Father’s name and glorified that name in all He was, said, or did (John:14; 2:11; 11:4, 40; 12:28; 14:13; 17:4).

In all things, Jesus Christ has the preeminence—”Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead.”  Colossians 1:18, NLT

YES! Praise the Name of Jesus!  Praise the One and Only God who sent His Son to save us!   

Worship and Wisdom, Psalms and Proverbs

Psalm 148, The Message


1-5 
Hallelujah!
Praise God from heaven,
    praise him from the mountaintops;
Praise him, all you his angels,
    praise him, all you his warriors,
Praise him, sun and moon,
    praise him, you morning stars;
Praise him, high heaven,
    praise him, heavenly rain clouds;
Praise, oh let them praise the name of God—
    he spoke the word, and there they were!

He set them in place
    from all time to eternity;
He gave his orders,
    and that’s it!

7-12 Praise God from earth,
    you sea dragons, you fathomless ocean deeps;
Fire and hail, snow and ice,
    hurricanes obeying his orders;
Mountains and all hills,
    apple orchards and cedar forests;
Wild beasts and herds of cattle,
    snakes, and birds in flight;
Earth’s kings and all races,
    leaders and important people,
Robust men and women in their prime,
    and yes, graybeards and little children.

13-14 Let them praise the name of God—
    it’s the only Name worth praising.
His radiance exceeds anything in earth and sky;
    he’s built a monument—his very own people!

Praise from all who love God!
    Israel’s children, intimate friends of God.
Hallelujah!

TRUTH:  Worship and praise God only, “it’s the only Name worth praising!”  Praise God from whom all blessings flow.  Praise Jesus for saving us and bringing us to God’s throne room, unashamed, to praise God in all His glory and splendor!

Proverb 12:28, NIV

WISDOM: “In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality.”

Abba, Father in Heaven,

Thank you, thank you, thank you for all you have done, how you have saved us, how you help us now and will do in our lives here until we meet you there where you are.  You are God!  We are not.  You alone are worthy of ALL our praise!  So, we praise, honor and thank you with all that is in us for we love you back.  Thank you for first loving us. To YOU be all glory!

In Jesus Name, Amen

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OUR HEARTS OF PRAISE GET GOD’S ATTENTION!

How beautiful it is to sing with others in harmony along with gifted musicians in praise to the God of all!  The more we sing praises, the more we want to sing!  When our motivations to praise God come from grateful hearts with minds focused on God in worship, God turns His head to listen!  Imagine it!  We have the attention of our God Most High, The One and Only God when we praise from a pure heart!  Hallelujah, indeed!

As the Psalmist sings, “It’s a good thing to sing praise to our God; praise is beautiful, praise is fitting.”  But friends, it is so much more than a song.  What happens when the music fades in worship?  I think of a powerful song for the soul written by Matt Redman, “The Heart of Worship” which is playing in the background of my mind as I read this psalm of praise and thanksgiving.  We also praise God with our very lives while we hum His tunes of Truth and behave in His Ways daily.  This is heart of worship.  Praises are not for us, never for the created, but for the Creator!  It is for you, dear Jesus, who made it possible to come to God with our praise!  Now, let us sing and live a new song!

When the music fades
All is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that’s of worth
That will bless Your heart
I’ll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart

I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You,
It’s all about You, Jesus
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about You,
It’s all about You, Jesus

King of endless worth
No one could express
How much You deserve
Though I’m weak and poor
All I have is Yours
Every single breath
I’ll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself


Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear                                                                                   You’re looking into my heart

I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You,
It’s all about You, Jesus
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
And it’s all about You,
It’s all about You, Jesus

I’m coming back to the heart of worship,
And it’s all about You,
It’s all about You, Jesus
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
And it’s all about You,
It’s all about You, Jesus

The Back Story of this psalm…

When Nehemiah and his people finished rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, restoring the gates, and resettling the people, they called a great assembly for celebration and dedication, and it is likely that this psalm was written for that occasion (vv. 2, 12-14; Neh. 12:27-43). The verb “gather together” in verse 2 is used in Ezekiel 39:28 for the return of the captives to Judah, and the word outcasts in verse 2 is used for these exiles (Neh. 1:9). One of the unique characteristics of this psalm is the large number of present participles in it–“building, healing, binding, counting, lifting up,” and so on–all of which speak of the constant and dynamic working of the Lord for His people. The psalm presents three reasons why the people should praise the Lord;

–Praise God for Our Rebirth and Restoration!

–Praise God for Renewal and Refreshment of the Land!

–Praise God for He does what He says He will do!

Now, let’s praise God with all that is in us!

Worship and Wisdom, Psalms and Proverbs

Psalm 147, The Message

Hallelujah!
It’s a good thing to sing praise to our God;
    praise is beautiful, praise is fitting.

2-6 God’s the one who rebuilds Jerusalem,
    who regathers Israel’s scattered exiles.
He heals the heartbroken
    and bandages their wounds.
He counts the stars
    and assigns each a name.
Our Lord is great, with limitless strength;
    we’ll never comprehend what he knows and does.
God puts the fallen on their feet again
    and pushes the wicked into the ditch.

7-11 Sing to God a thanksgiving hymn,
    play music on your instruments to God,
Who fills the sky with clouds,
    preparing rain for the earth,
Then turning the mountains green with grass,
    feeding both cattle and crows.
He’s not impressed with horsepower;
    the size of our muscles means little to him.
Those who fear God get God’s attention;
    they can depend on his strength.

12-18 Jerusalem, worship God!
    Zion, praise your God!
He made your city secure,
    he blessed your children among you.
He keeps the peace at your borders,
    he puts the best bread on your tables.
He launches his promises earthward—
    how swift and sure they come!
He spreads snow like a white fleece,
    he scatters frost like ashes,
He broadcasts hail like birdseed—
    who can survive his winter?
Then he gives the command and it all melts;
    he breathes on winter—suddenly it’s spring!

19-20 He speaks the same way to Jacob,
    speaks words that work to Israel.
He never did this to the other nations;
    they never heard such commands.
Hallelujah!

TRUTH: “Those who fear God get God’s attention; they can depend on his strength.”

Proverb 2:8, The Message

WISDOM: “He keeps his eye on all who live honestly, and pays special attention to his loyally committed ones.”

Abba, Father in Heaven,

Great are you, Lord!  I will sing a song to you with thanksgiving in my heart for all you have done, are doing and will do in my life.  Continue to guide, correct my course, lead and counsel me with your Holy Spirit.  I am yours.  I am listening while singing praise to you with my very life.

In Jesus Name, Amen.  I believe.

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OH, MY SOUL!

Playing in the background of my mind while I read Psalm 146, a “song” of pure praise by a soul who loves God with all that is in him, is a hymn written in 1873 called “It is Well With My Soul”.  I ask myself, no matter what is happening around us, do we really believe that what we believe about God is really real?  IS it well with our soul? 

THE BACK STORY…Horatio Spafford, composer of It is Well with My Soul

This hymn was written after traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first two were the death of his four-year-old son and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer and had invested significantly in property in the area of Chicago that was extensively damaged by the great fire). 

His business interests were further hit by the economic downturn of 1873, at which time he had planned to travel to England with his family on the SS Ville du Havre, to help with D. L. Moody’s upcoming evangelistic campaigns. In a late change of plan, he sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire.

While crossing the Atlantic Ocean, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sea vessel, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford’s daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, “Saved alone …”. Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died. Bliss called his tune Ville du Havre, from the name of the stricken vessel.

Here are the ORIGINAL lyrics…

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Refrain
It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
A song in the night, oh my soul!

To Spafford, no matter what happened in his life, God was in charge.  And because he believed God is Sovereign and in charge, like the Psalmist sings, it is well with his soul.

Worship and Wisdom, Psalms and Proverbs

Psalm 146, The Message

1-2 Hallelujah!
    O my soul, praise God!
All my life long I’ll praise God,
    singing songs to my God as long as I live.

3-9 Don’t put your life in the hands of experts
    who know nothing of life, of salvation life.
Mere humans don’t have what it takes;
    when they die, their projects die with them.
Instead, get help from the God of Jacob,
    put your hope in God and know real blessing!
God made sky and soil,
    sea and all the fish in it.
He always does what he says—
    he defends the wronged,
    he feeds the hungry.
God frees prisoners—
    he gives sight to the blind,
    he lifts up the fallen.
God loves good people, protects strangers,
    takes the side of orphans and widows,
    but makes short work of the wicked.

10 God’s in charge—always.
    Zion’s God is God for good!
    Hallelujah!

TRUTH:  The God of Zion is our God!  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16. 

Believe in Jesus, repent of sin and be saved by grace by a God who loved you first!

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” –Jesus

NOW, because we really believe, raise a hallelujah to the One and Only who loves us most, provides for us best, protects us from evil and delivers us from thinking what about what is not true.  Stick to Truth.

Proverb 3:1-6, The Message

1-2 Good friend, don’t forget all I’ve taught you;
    take to heart my commands.
They’ll help you live a long, long time,
    a long life lived full and well.

3-4 Don’t lose your grip on Love and Loyalty.
    Tie them around your neck; carve their initials on your heart.
Earn a reputation for living well
    in God’s eyes and the eyes of the people.

5-12 Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    he’s the one who will keep you on track.

WISDOM:  Trust God

Abba, Father in Heaven,

Because of you all is well with my soul.  You saved me, restored my hope in you, picked me up when I was down and set me on level ground.  You allow me to hear your voice and give me strength and wisdom to obey.  When I’m distracted by the world, you pull back into your arms, set me right and then send me out again to tell the world of your love, mercy and saving grace.  You are God!  Through Jesus, Your Son, we are allowed to come right up to you with our love, petitions, wonderings, and praise.  Oh Lord, because of you I am whole and complete.  I trust all of me to all of You.

In Jesus Name, Amen

“Hallelujah!  O my soul, praise God!
All my life long I’ll praise God, singing songs to my God as long as I live.”

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GOD IS…

If you ever forget who God is or what the character of God is like, then read this Psalm.  Seriously, post it where it can readily be seen so on the bad or confused days, days when you feel unloved, your mind will be immediately changed.  Your heart and soul will be filled with praise for our God who is everything to us and for us.  I am lifted in my thinking each time I read each line of this “song” of praise to God Almighty!

DID YOU KNOW…This is the only psalm called “A psalm of praise.” David mentions several attributes of God, among them His greatness (v. 3), His grace, goodness, and compassion (vv. 8-9), His glory and might (v. 11), His righteousness and kindness (v. 17), and His providential care (v. 20).

Who could not praise a God with these wonderful characteristics? But along with telling us why we should praise the Lord, David tells us when we should praise Him.  ALL THE TIME!!

Worship and Wisdom, Psalms and Proverbs

Psalm 145, The Message


I lift you high in praise, my God, O my King!
    and I’ll bless your name into eternity.

I’ll bless you every day,
    and keep it up from now to eternity.

God is magnificent; he can never be praised enough.
    There are no boundaries to his greatness.

Generation after generation stands in awe of your work;
    each one tells stories of your mighty acts.

Your beauty and splendor have everyone talking;
    I compose songs on your wonders.

Your marvelous doings are headline news;
    I could write a book full of the details of your greatness.

The fame of your goodness spreads across the country;
    your righteousness is on everyone’s lips.

God is all mercy and grace—
    not quick to anger, is rich in love.

God is good to one and all;
    everything he does is soaked through with grace.

10-11 Creation and creatures applaud you, God;
    your holy people bless you.

They talk about the glories of your rule,
    they exclaim over your splendor,

12 Letting the world know of your power for good,
    the lavish splendor of your kingdom.

13 Your kingdom is a kingdom eternal;
    you never get voted out of office.

God always does what he says,
    and is gracious in everything he does.

14 God gives a hand to those down on their luck,
    gives a fresh start to those ready to quit.

15 All eyes are on you, expectant;
    you give them their meals on time.

16 Generous to a fault,
    you lavish your favor on all creatures.

17 Everything God does is right—
    the trademark on all his works is love.

18 God’s there, listening for all who pray,
    for all who pray and mean it.

19 He does what’s best for those who fear him—
    hears them call out, and saves them.

20 God sticks by all who love him,
    but it’s all over for those who don’t.

21 My mouth is filled with God’s praise.
    Let everything living bless him,
    bless his holy name from now to eternity!

TRUTH: “Everything God does is right—the trademark on all his works is love.”  God is everything to all who believe and praise His Name.  Trust in God and He will never fail us.

Proverb 3:5-6, The Message

WISDOM: “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.  Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.”

Abba, Father in Heaven,

Hallowed be Your Name. Great are You, Lord.  You are the air I breathe, the wisdom for each step I take, the voice that leads me to all that is good.  You are the Counselor when I am confused by life.  You are Comforter when I am sad over loss.  You are the Healer when I am brokenhearted or sick in all kinds of ways.  You are the One and Only I run to when I am afraid and fearful of the unknown.  You are the One who loves me best and who teaches me how to love.  May Your Kingdom come and reign in me and your glory be seen all around me.  May Your Will be done in and through me, in all the details of my life on earth, as it is in heaven.  Give us this day your Word for today so that we will follow you expectantly.  Forgive us our sins as we forgive each other.  Lead us not into temptations but DELIVER us from the Enemy and his schemes to bring us down and distract us from your purpose.  Nothing is too hard for you—absolutely nothing.  So, to YOU be ALL glory, honor and praise today and forevermore.

In Jesus Name, Amen.  I believe. 

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SOMETIMES I WONDER…

Like the Psalmist, I sometimes ask God, “Why DO you care for us so much?”  So many people are wandering around without you and don’t’ even care to know you but you know them by name and long for a relationship with all you have created.  Why do you care so much?

When we lead ourselves into trouble because we missed your cue to turn the other way, you care enough to bring us back to safety.  You come to our rescue!  Why do you care so much?

When the enemy challenges us in life with surprise attacks, it doesn’t surprise you.  You are there to fight that battle when we call on your name.  You not only fight the battle for us and win the war, you win and welcome us back as prodigals, turning the ugliness of the battle into something beautiful in our growing, more Godly character for going through it!  Yes, why do you care so much for us? 

It’s your love, your relentless, unchanging, unconditional love, isn’t it?

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16, NIV

There is no one in this world that you do not love!  When people malign your character, don’t trust your wisdom and turn away from you altogether, you still care about them.  Your love is truly amazing!

Worship and Wisdom, Psalms and Proverbs

Psalm 144, The Message


1-2 
Blessed be God, my mountain,
    who trains me to fight fair and well.
He’s the bedrock on which I stand,
    the castle in which I live,
    my rescuing knight,
The high crag where I run for dear life,
    while he lays my enemies low.

3-4 I wonder why you care, God—
    why do you bother with us at all?
All we are is a puff of air;
    we’re like shadows in a campfire.

5-8 Step down out of heaven, God;
    ignite volcanoes in the hearts of the mountains.
Hurl your lightnings in every direction;
    shoot your arrows this way and that.
Reach all the way from sky to sea:
    pull me out of the ocean of hate,
    out of the grip of those barbarians
Who lie through their teeth,
    who shake your hand
    then knife you in the back.

9-10 O God, let me sing a new song to you,
    let me play it on a twelve-string guitar—
A song to the God who saved the king,
    the God who rescued David, his servant.

11 Rescue me from the enemy sword,
    release me from the grip of those barbarians
Who lie through their teeth,
    who shake your hand
    then knife you in the back.

12-14 Make our sons in their prime
    like sturdy oak trees,
Our daughters as shapely and bright
    as fields of wildflowers.
Fill our barns with great harvest,
    fill our fields with huge flocks;
Protect us from invasion and exile—
    eliminate the crime in our streets.

15 How blessed the people who have all this!
How blessed the people who have God for God!

TRUTH:  We are blessed when we believe in God as really real and live for God in intimate relationship with God.  We are blessed when we allow God to grow His character in us.  We are blessed when we worship God alone, depend on Him for help in trouble and trust God in good times and bad.  HE is God and we are not.  There is NO ONE like our God!

Proverb 18:10, The Message

WISDOM: “God’s name is a place of protection—good people can run there and be safe.”

Abba, Father in Heaven,

Thank you for your love, care, protection, provision but most of all for saving my soul for eternity.  I believe You and what you say.  I run to You first for I have learned that you already know what I need at the time I need it most.  You protect me daily from things I never knew was happening until it was over and I was safe.  You provide before I know that provision with match a need.  You guide us along the path when all our focus is on you.  Yes, you care and I wonder no more.  You know me by name, know me from the inside out because you created me.  Thank you for loving me and all others the way you do.  You are amazing!  Your love and care are amazing.  Continue to guide, lead, correct, forgive me as I walk with you.  All of me is yours, Lord.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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